Ask most Catholics and they’ll say it’s what Father reads from the pulpit at Mass on Sunday.
I’m talking about something different.
The gospel message is a simple formula that lays out, in logical steps, how we’re saved by Christ.
The gospel message in Colossians
I was reading Colossians the other day and I came across this passage:
“And you who once were estranged and hostile in mind doing evil deeds, he as now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard…” (Col 1:22-23).
This passage struck me as a perfect example of the gospel message. Let’s take a look at why!
Our condition after the Fall
Paul says the Colossians were estranged. Why?
In the beginning, we were connected with God. When he breathed life into Adam and Eve, his own divine life animated their souls. So, the first couple were in union with God through this divine life-connection.
The rebellion of Adam destroyed that union. After the Fall, we are estranged, cut off from this life-giving connection.
This estrangement causes us to be “hostile in mind.” Our thinking does not align with God’s. And thus, our ways do not conform to God’s ways. We sin and do “evil deeds,” that is, act in ways that further estrange us from God.
Without God’s life-giving connection guiding us, we can never live exactly as he created us to live. It’s outside of the design. The pieces don’t fit.
What Christ does for us
But now, Paul says, they are reconciled by Christ’s death!
The death of Jesus restores the union with God that existed before original sin. Through Baptism, we receive the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in our souls once again.
It is this presence, this union through the Spirit, that reconciles us to God. We are once again in union and connected to him.
Why are we restored to union?
But salvation doesn’t end there. Very often we stop at our reconciliation through Christ’s death.
Why are we reconciled? Paul says in order to be presented “holy and blameless and irreproachable” before God. That’s the goal!
The Good News is that our mistakes can be erased. Our sins can be completely forgiven. And, we can be changed by the working of grace into a new creation. We can become holy as God is holy.
The Holy Spirit dwelling in our souls is not inert. He is alive and active. His presence is transformative! When you cooperate with grace, his thoughts become your thoughts. His movements become your actions. You are empowered to live the God intended human beings to live. You become who you’re meant to be.
But, and here’s a big but…
This can only happen provided you “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast.”
We have to remain in his love. We can’t fall away. It’s not saved once and then you’re free to do whatever you want.
We have to live in him and follow his commandments. We have to hope in him, which means to desire this transformation and trust that God can and will make it happen for you.
There are some powerful themes here. Estrangement, reconciliation through Christ’s death and the call to holiness provided we follow God’s guidelines for fullness of life in him. We could go a step further and say that those guidelines are found most fully within the Catholic Church. This is the gospel formula.
Know this formula and apply it. Keep going back to it again and again. Find it in the Bible and in your lesson material. Point it out to your students.
They need to see it applied all over the place to make it stick. And if it sticks, your teaching will become transformative instead of merely informative. That’s the goal of catechesis.
Now it’s your turn:
- What other Bible passages show this gospel formula?
- Have you ever worked the gospel message in your teaching?
- Let me know in the comments!